Using a healthy diet to achieve health goals is something Olympic gold medalist and world champion swimmer Natalie Coughlin knows a lot about. Passionate about healthy eating and living, she is currently training for the 2012 summer Olympics in London. Coughlin spoke with SheKnows.com to share some of her top healthy living and fitness tips.
Olympic Healthy Living Tip #1
Start the day off right
The best thing you can do when it comes to healthy living is to start your day off on a healthy high note, Coughlin says. That means having a good breakfast in the morning. “If you start your day off with a doughnut you kind of trash that day, but if you start on the right foot, with a healthy breakfast, you’ll be much more likely to continue making healthy choices the rest of the day,” she explains. Giving yourself an excuse to”trash the day,” as Coughlin says, is never a good idea, so do yourself a favor and make healthy living a morning must.
Olympic Healthy Living Tip #2
Go one step at a time
Not everyone has the time or stamina to work out like an Olympic athlete, but when it comes to committing to a healthy lifestyle, Coughlin explains, success is all about attitude. Adopting an overall healthy outlook doesn’t have to mean overwhelming yourself with unattainable goals. Rather than thinking about the 10 pounds you think you need to lose by spring, or how hard it’s going to be to go from couch potato to gym rat, start smaller. “Don’t think big-picture right away; think about what smaller healthy choices you can be making through the day,” she says.
Olympic Healthy Living Tip #3
Stock up on healthy snacks
Having snacks on hand is very important for maintaining energy level, Coughlin explains.”I travel all the time and get super-busy, so it’s important to have things that are nutritious and easy to eat on the go.” Keeping snacks easily accessible will also ensure you don’t get ravenous and eat everything in sight. Some of Coughlin’s favorite snacks include nuts, California dried plums, herbal teas and her homemade snack bars she says are filling, healthy and gluten-free.
Olympic Healthy Living Tip #4
Work out with a friend
One of Coughlin’s top tips for staying motivated to work out is having a friend to hit the gym with. “Knowing that someone is waiting for you gives you a lot of incentive to stick to your fitness goals,” she says. It’s also more fun to work out with a friend. If you usually meet one of your friends for coffee and a weekly face-to-face catch-up, take your lattés to go and walk for an hour rather than staying inside. Or gather a few like-minded pals and start a walking (or running) group. You’ll be surprised how much easier exercise can be when you don’t have to do it alone.
Olympic Healthy Living Tip #5
Indulge a little
Even Olympians indulge sometimes. “Trust me, I think it’s important to allow yourself to have rich foods,” Coughlin says. Cheese is her go-to “cheat” food, but she explains that having small portions of high-fat foods is OK if you do so in moderation and balance out indulgences with healthier choices later on. “If you have a cheese plate, you know you’ll have to balance it out later in the day with a lighter dinner or a longer walk with the dog.”
Olympic Healthy Living Tip #6
Just get moving
Many people barely have enough time to get dinner on the table, let alone make it to a spinning class or spend some quality time with a yoga mat — but the point is to be as active as you can in the time that you have, rather than feeling like you have sweat for hours in order to reap the health benefits of exercise, Coughlin explains. “You don’t have to put on workout clothes and go to the gym. Go for a walk with your dog, always use the stairs, do things throughout the day that get your body moving.”